Freemasons For Dummies
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In order to become a Freemason, you need some basic qualifications (specific qualifications vary from one lodge to the next, but some general rules apply). If you meet the Freemason criteria, you have to go through a process, from petitioning to becoming a full member.

Petitioning the Masonic lodge to join

When you’ve decided on the lodge you want to join, ask for a petition, which is a standard questionnaire that's usually provided by the Grand Lodge for the lodges in its jurisdiction. Answer all the questions completely and truthfully.

All lodges charge annual dues (in Europe, these are often monthly payments, or subscriptions). Most lodges also charge a petitioning or initiation fee. Be sure you understand all costs before joining.

After you turn in your petition (and get a recommendation from at least one existing member of the lodge), the lodge Secretary presents your petition to the members at the next regular business meeting (sometimes called a stated meeting). In the United States, the petition is read to all the members, and an investigative committee is appointed by the Worshipful Master to meet with you in an official, investigative capacity.

Being investigated as a prospective Mason

In the United States, the most common method of investigation is by an investigative committee. The investigative committee is the eyes and ears of the lodge. Because not every lodge member can meet with you, the committee does, and it issues a report. The committee may meet you at the lodge, at a local restaurant, or even in your home, depending on the customs of the lodge. The committee members may meet you as a group or one-on-one.

The committee reports at the next business meeting. These two meetings — the meeting when the investigative committee is appointed and the meeting at which it report its findings — are usually a month apart. Some jurisdictions may also conduct a criminal background check and that felony convictions are not looked on favorably.

Balloting for your acceptance into a Masonic lodge

After the investigative committee reports to the lodge, your petition is voted on. The election (or rejection) of a candidate in a Masonic lodge is a secret ballot, and with few exceptions, must be completely unanimous. One vote against the petitioner generally rejects him.

If a petitioner is rejected by a lodge, most Grand Lodges have rules that require a waiting period before he can petition that lodge again or try to petition another one. This period is usually one year.

Scheduling your Masonic degree ceremonies

After you’re elected to receive the degrees of Masonry, the only thing left is for the lodge to schedule your degree ceremonies. Depending on the state or country you’re in and the customs of your individual lodge, you may have some options concerning your degree conferral:
  • Proficiency: Most lodges prefer you to go through your degrees by yourself, one at a time, with a certain waiting period between them. You doubtless have to prove your proficiency (knowledge of the degree) before moving to the next one, so you're assigned a mentor — possibly one of the men who signed your petition.

  • One-day classes: A few Grand Lodges in the United States offer controversial one-day classes, allowing you to receive all three degrees in one day, with no waiting period. Instead of participating in the degrees, you sit in an audience and witness the degree performed, with one man acting as an exemplar candidate, meaning he represents you and your “classmates.”

Welcome, Masonic brother

When you’ve completed your Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason degrees, you’re a full member. Any additional degrees are optional, and sort of the Masonic equivalent of a continuing education course. But a 32nd-degree Scottish Rite Mason doesn't “outrank” a 3rd-degree Master Mason.

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